Here's Why You Need to Eat at London's Wildly Popular Wagamama, Now Open in N.Y.C.
Hey New Yorkers, have you been counting down the days until the London-based ramen chain Wagamama opens its first outpost in Manhattan? Well, the wait is finally over. You’ll find the two-story eatery situated across the northwest corner of Madison Square Park, which is the perfect location for a post-meal stroll. And if the hype is any indication, you might also find yourself waiting on a parkside bench until a table opens up for you and your party.
VIDEO: 10 Superstars Who Moonlight as Restaurateurs
Once you do get inside, here’s what you can expect:
Seating and Decor
There are tons of seating options: At the bar, in a booth, or at a communal table. If you’re familiar with the company’s history, you might be aware that the latter was one of the most distinguishing characteristics of the restaurant when it first opened in London more than two decades ago. The decor is clean and modern, comprised mostly of wood and metal. The most noticeable—and possibly only—flourish being the Tom Dixon pendants with brass lining hanging over the tables. Nice choice, guys.
One thing to note is that the food comes out pretty quickly. Everything is made to order, but there are no hot lamps in the kitchen holding your meals until the rest of your party’s dishes are finished. Instead, everything gets delivered to your table as soon as it's ready to ensure that you’re getting the freshest version of your dish. Winning appetizer: Duck gyozas with cherry hoisin dipping sauce. That condiment was everything and when we told our server so, she brought us an extra bowl to pour on everything else we ordered.
The restaurant is typically referred to as a “ramen chain” but they have so much more than that. Yes, it is a highlight, and our shiro dashi pork number (with slow-cooked meat marinated in bulgogi sauce, topped with veggies and a tea-stained egg) was amazing, but there were plenty of teppanyaki, salad, and donburi options, as well. I also appreciated that their noodle+broth bowl was not nearly as salty as what usually comes my way when dining at popular ramen joints and didn’t leave me quenching for thirst during and after my meal.
Donburi (Rice Bowls)
My dining companion and I opted for the duck bowl, which consisted of ultra soft, sous vide-cooked shredded duck leg with a spicy teriyaki sauce (which was hardly spicy), assorted veggies, a fried egg (fact: a fried egg makes everything taste better), and a small side of kimchi. As a first-generation Korean-American, I 100 percent approve of Wagamama's kimchi. Do it right and mix everything together before chowing down.
Ah, and then there was a dessert. With six different options, the sweets menu was more robust than what I was anticipating. In the end, we opted for the chocolate layer cake that was drizzled with chocolate and wasabi sauce, and served with a scoop of coconut ice cream. Full disclosure: I don’t like wasabi, and coconut I could do without, but both flavors were very mild and I ended up loving what we ordered. Plus, one of the layers in the decadent cake was a crispy wafer-like cookie which added a nice and unexpected layer of texture.